Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter (B)

April 12, 2015
Text: John 20:19-31

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            “I just want a little peace.”  You’ve said it more than once.  You think it all the time.  Peace and quiet.  Peace of mind and heart.  Peace in your marriage and your family.  Peace for a nation divided.  Peace in a scary world full of violence.  Why is there so much turmoil on every front, on every level of your life?  Why is peace so hard to find?  The lack of peace, which varies in intensity from this time to that, from situation to situation, is actually a symptom of an even greater need.  What you really need is peace of conscience, which is to say, what you really need is peace with God.  The conscience is a vestige of God’s image in man.  Your conscience is the Law of God written on your heart (Rom. 2:15).  Those feelings of guilt, the emotional burdens you carry, your anxiety caused by the lack of peace all around you, these are actually the accusations of the Law that you have broken.  You know you are a sinner.  You know your sin separates you from God.  You know that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  And you know that the death of a sinner ends in hell.  Now, you don’t consciously think through these things most of the time.  In fact, if you can help it, you avoid thinking about these things at all.  But that doesn’t change the truth.  What you need first and foremost, what you need above all else, is peace with God.  And that is the peace Jesus announces to you in the Holy Gospel this morning: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19; ESV). 
            The disciples need the Lord’s peace on the evening of that first Easter.  The doors are locked where the disciples are for fear: Fear of the Jews, fear of the Romans, fear that Jesus is dead, fear that they have wasted the last three years of their life, fear that the women and some of their own number have seen angels and maybe even the risen Lord, fear that their doubts and their abandonment of the Lord in His hour of need can never be forgiven.  In the midst of this fear, the risen Lord Jesus stands among them.  You see, it is not that He has to come in from the outside, somehow gain entry through the locked door, or sneak in through the window.  What the disciples do not realize is that He has been with them, in their midst, the whole time.  Ever since His resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus always and fully uses His divine powers.  He is everywhere, in His risen and glorified Body, as God and Man.  He is with you now, and with you always.  And He is with His disciples in the locked-up room, with them in the midst of their fear.  Only now, suddenly, He is with them visibly and tangibly.  And He speaks audibly.  His Words are extraordinarily important.  “Peace be with you.”  It is a Holy Absolution.  It is as if He is saying, “For all your fears, all your doubts, all your failure to listen to Me and learn My teaching, all your locking yourself away and hiding, indeed, for abandoning Me in My hour of suffering… Peace.  Your sins are forgiven.  You have peace with Me.  You have peace with God.  Let your heart now be at peace.  Let My peace take possession of you whole.  For mine is the hard-won peace of the cross, the peace of the empty tomb and resurrection from the dead.  And this, My peace, I now give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
            Then Jesus does a very important thing for you, there in that room behind the locked doors.  He ordains the Apostles to speak His peace on His behalf through the whole world.  And that speaking is to create the very reality it announces.  Jesus institutes the Holy Ministry for the preaching of the Gospel, for the proclamation of peace.  “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” He says to His Apostles (v. 21), and the very word “apostle” means one who is sent as an official representative with all the authority of the one who sent him in the matter for which he is sent.  So when an Apostle speaks peace, Jesus speaks peace.  And so also those who stand in the apostolic Office of the Ministry.  When a pastor speaks peace, Jesus speaks peace.  This is especially important for what Jesus does and says next: Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld’” (vv. 22-23).  Our Lord gives pastors to His Church to forgive sins in Jesus’ Name.  When the pastor forgives your sins in the stead and by the command of Jesus, you can believe it.  For it is valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.  For He has, and He does.  The Absolution is His.  And this Absolution gives peace: Objective peace with God, for God has nothing against you anymore; subjective peace in your heart, for you know you have a gracious heavenly Father who loves you and wants you for His own.  And He will work all things for your good, and for your salvation.
            The apostles are ordained to speak the peace of the crucified and risen Christ to the world.  But Thomas was not with them.  Thomas does not believe their preaching.  And so Thomas has no peace.  Only doubt.  You know the story.  “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (v. 25).  Seeing is believing, we always say, and Thomas would agree.  But that is not how it works in Jesus’ Kingdom.  In Jesus’ Kingdom, hearing is believing.  You do not come to faith in the risen Jesus by seeing Him.  That is why, even though He is just as substantially with you in this room this morning as He was with the disciples in the locked room so long ago, He is hidden.  He does not appear to the naked eye.  He appears to you in His Word.  You see Him with your ears.  He appears in the preaching that He has been crucified for your sins, and that He is risen from the dead.  He appears in the announcement that all your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  He appears in His proclamation that the water in the font is a sin-cleansing bath that gives you new birth and new life, that the bread and wine on the altar are His own Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  By that Word, He breathes on you, and you receive the Holy Spirit.  You hear Him, and hearing is believing.  Thomas resists that.  He does not believe the preaching.  Could it be that Thomas’ doubt is the fruit of fear?  So Jesus does for Thomas what He had done for the other Ten one week before.  The substantially present, though hidden, Lord Jesus stands visibly in their midst.  He comes right into the midst of the fear and doubt, to dispel it.  There is only one medicine for this deadly disease.  Absolution: The peace of Jesus Christ.  “Peace be with you,” He says (v. 26), and then He shows Thomas His hands and His side, for the peace of the risen Lord Jesus flows from the mortal wounds He received for our sins.  Thomas falls on his knees and confesses: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).  Finally, Thomas believes the preaching.  And now Thomas is ordained to preach that peace to the world.

            And oh, how the world needs that peace!  Oh, how you need that peace!  You need the peace that flows form Jesus’ wounds.  Your sins were nailed to the cross in the Body of Jesus.  They are all forgiven.  Christ Jesus is risen from the dead.  You have peace with God.  Your conscience can be at rest.  You need no longer fear.  None of the problems that plague your life, your family, the nation, the world, can ultimately harm you.  For, as St. Paul writes, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).  Your peace comes from the wounds, from the crucified and risen Body and Blood of the Lord.  And so, as you come to the Lord’s altar to eat and drink at His Supper, Jesus says to you what He said to the apostles in our text: “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”  Then, after your hunger and thirst have been satisfied, He bids you “Depart + in peace.”  You can and you do, for you have been bodied and blooded with the Body and Blood of Jesus.  You do not see Him with the naked eye, as did the Apostles and Thomas.  Still, He appears to you, right in your midst, hidden in the Supper.  You know this by His Word.  You see Him with your ears.  And hearing is believing.  The world cannot give you peace, but Jesus does.  Let not your heart be troubled.  The risen Lord Jesus stands in your midst this morning to calm your fears and forgive your sins.  Peace, beloved, peace.  He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              

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